There is a certain magic in windmills that always leaves me spellbound, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. Windmills are indeed impressive engineering feats, with their towering majesty, and, in the case of the Philippines, simple and sleek design. But while they are certainly man-made, they have a beauty that makes them look very much part of nature. Perhaps because they move gracefully with the wind, like pure white birds in constant circular flight.
While Bangui, Ilocos Norte is top of mind when it comes to windmills in the Philippines, Pililla, Rizal’s own windmills are slowly becoming known, and, unlike Bangui, Pililla is just a few hours away from Metro Manila, perfect for a day trip.
And while Bangui is known to have many of its windmills on the beach, Pililla has its windmills on lush green hills, some of them abundant with pineapples, unexpectedly among the sweetest I’ve ever tasted.
Much of Pililla is lined with rolling green hills, as my travel companions and I found out when we rode along its roads. The pineapple plantation we went to is atop one of Pililla’s many hills. We walked up the hill to see pineapples popping out from the expanse of green. And in the distance, we saw the white of whirling windmills. It was arguably one of the best views of Pililla.
Aside from the view of windmills from the pineapple plantation, the pineapples themselves are quite a sight too. Some were big, some were still small, while some had unusual and fascinating shapes.
These pineapples with curious shapes still have the same sweetness, though they are not commercially sold together with the usual oval ones. I actually found pineapples like these in Binondo during Chinese New Year festivities. They seem to have a reputation as lucky charms.
Pililla’s tourism office graciously let us sample some of Pililla’s pineapples. It rivals that of the sweetest Bukidnon pineapple I’ve tasted. According to Pililla’s association of pineapple growers,the Department of Agrarian Reform had in fact recognized and awarded Pililla’s pineapples as the sweetest in the country and in the region in 2008 and 2009, respectively. The pineapples have a 68% sugar content, thriving on Pililla’s less acidic land, especially during the summer.
Around 15 minutes away from the pineapple plantation and on another hilltop is the visitors’ center of Pililla’s windmills, officially known as the Pililla Wind Farm.
At the visitors’ center, through colorful mounted illustrations and a representative from Alternergy, the renewable energy company spearheading the windmill project, we found out that Pililla has 27 windmills – or wind turbines – in total, and the electricity they generate monthly can power 66,000 Metro Manila households consuming an average 200 to 300 kilowatts per hour. Each wind turbine is a towering 125 meters tall and its blades span 90 meters in diameter
The area around the visitors’ center also offers a sweeping view of Laguna Lake, more popularly known as Laguna de Bay. This is also one of the reasons why Pililla is a good location for windmills – Pililla circles around Laguna de Bay and is part of a natural wind corridor, also because of the hills and its nearness to the sea.
Pililla actually means “little Pila,” or “minor Pila,” alluding to Pila town in Laguna, as the two belonged to the same jurisdiction ruled over by a leader during the Spanish colonial era. But there is nothing little or minor now about this town blessed with riches from the earth and sky with its beautiful green hills, majestic windmills, and the sweetest pineapples.
How to get there: Ride any Edsa-bound bus passing by Starmall Crossing. From Starmall Crossing, ride a van to Tanay. Fare is around P70. Get off at Jollibee, before the public market. There are tricycles there you can charter to Pililla. Fare is usually P300. There is also a Siniloan jeep passing by Tanay market and Jollibee, but the tourism office says that it will be a long steep walk up the hill with the visitors center’ and the viewpoint of the windmills. The visit to the pineapple farm is best coordinated with the tourism office so that you can also come with a guide. From Tanay Jollibee, ride a tricycle that will take you to Pililla town and will pass by the municipal hall. Fare is usually P12-P15.
If you are going via private vehicle, drive along the Manila East Road to Tanay. At the fork of the road, turn left to the road leading to Real, Quezon. Villa Lorenzo Resort is the sign that you are already near the park. Drive up the hill, and check the entrance to the wind farm on your left. For the pineapple farm,best to drop by the tourism office for assistance.
Tip: For less hassle, take part in a tour. The Philippine Tour Operators Association (PHILTOA) has tours covering not just Pililla but also other parts of Rizal. They were the ones who organized the tour I joined above. They can be reached via their website or their landline: (632) 812-4513.
Where to eat: Bulawan Floating Restaurant is one of the old and established restaurants in Pililla. There are cottages surrounded by a fish pond, thus, the name. Years before the windmills were built, I already came here with my family and tried their cooked fish fresh from the pond. I would recommend their tilapia and hito. They also serve other Pinoy food like halo-halo, which I got to try during my recent visit.